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Pure Maple Syrup Contains 20 Disease-Fighting Compounds


March and the warmer weather of spring signals the beginning of maple syrup season. Maple syrup is produced in 17 US states and Canada. A new study has found that the liquid delight is not just a source of calories and sweetness, but may also be healthy for you, containing more than 20 compounds that are linked to human health.

University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram, who specializes in medicinal plant research, studied syrup from Acer trees in Canada with funding from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Program (ACAAF).

Maple syrup was known to have naturally occurring minerals, such as zinc, thiamine, and calcium. Seeram was enlisted to study the plant’s antioxidants, known to exist in plant structures such as the leaves and the bark, and found 13 that were not previously known to be in the syrup. Several of those had anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties. He will continue his research to determine if the compounds exist in beneficial quantities in order to recommend maple syrup as a “health food”.

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A previous study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 found that maple syrup contains polyphenols such as abscisic acid (ABA) which is thought to stimulate insulin release through pancreatic cells and increases sensitivity of the fat cells to insulin, which makes the syrup beneficial for those with metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

But do you know the difference between “pancake syrup” and real maple syrup? The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has found that 50% of consumer don’t. Pancake syrup is actually made of a blend between corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup and added maple flavoring. Only 100% maple syrup can be labeled as such.

Seeram acknowledges that real maple syrup costs more than commercial brands. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. However, he says “You pay for what you get and you get what you pay for, meaning there are consequences for what you eat.”

Want to know more about maple syrup? Here are some fun facts:
• The clear sap from the maple tree begins at about 1.5% sugar. Once it is evaporated to a thick syrup, the content is around 62%. Compare that to “pancake syrup”, which is 100% sugar.
• Syrups are graded A, B, or Commercial. They also come in three colors: light amber, medium amber, and dark amber. Grade A, the lightest in color, is culled at the start of the season. Grade B comes as the weather warms.
• Maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes and waffles. Chefs use the syrup in marinades, braises, and even some beers.